Kampala — Seventy four out of Uganda's 81 districts do not have a registered land surveyor, according to a list that Saturday Vision obtained from the Surveyors Registration Board.
According to the list, Uganda has only 37 registered land surveyors. The Board says these are the only ones permitted by the Surveyors Registration Act to sign survey reports. Twenty eight of the registered surveyors (about 76%) are based in Kampala, three in Entebbe and one each in the districts of Kabale, Masindi, Lira, Kabarole and Mukono.
The other districts are served by unregistered surveyors, who go to the field and take the documents to registered surveyors to sign.
The president of the Institution of Surveyors of Uganda (ISU), Nathan Behangana, expressed fears that this state of affairs had paved the way for unprofessional work and land conflicts.
He blamed the Surveyors Registration Act, which requires A university degree for someone to register as a surveyor, yet the majority of the people engaged in surveying are diploma holders. Even university degree holders cannot be registered for two years after their graduation, according to the law. The only diploma holders allowed to register are those who are awarded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors of UK.
Section 19 (3) of the Act reads: "Subject to this Act, no person shall engage in or carry out the practice of surveying, by whatever name called, unless he or she is the holder of a valid practicing certificate granted to him or her in that behalf under this Act."
But some surveyors, especially those with lower qualifications, have opposed these requirements. In February, over 200 surveyors petitioned Parliament, accusing the board of frustrating their registration efforts. The petition, copied to the President, the lands, housing and urban development minister, the education and sports minister and the National Council for Higher Education, called for the disbandment of the Board. "These hurdles are demoralising and frustrating your petitioners in their bid to get registered," read the petition. "They have lost faith in the registration process and some have resorted to other means of earning a living."
However, the registrar of the board, Cyprian Inyangat, dismissed claims that the registration process is cumbersome.
He told Saturday Vision: "We do not block anybody's registration intentionally, but we want to protect the public by presenting only professional surveyors and not people relying only on experience. As professionals who have been in practice for a very long time, we have observed that fresh graduates do things that show that they need that pupilage to equip them well."
He said the petition was sent back to the board, which made a comprehensive report to the lands ministry.
In the meantime, unregistered surveyors continue to work either under their registered colleagues, or fraudulently. This raises confusion because members of the public may not be able tell a genuine surveyor.
Although Behangana said there was no evidence that unregistered surveyors could process land titles, Inyangat acknowledged that a few unscrupulous ones actually do. He said unregistered surveyors account for 99% of the fraud cases they receive from the public. "The worst and challenging thing for us is that they use Kampala surveyors to stamp papers before certifying whether the survey was done well," he said. "We are trying to find a solution to that weakness on the part of our registered members."
The Board does not have figures on the number of qualified surveyors, but Makerere and Kyambogo universities are estimated to have sent out several hundred graduates in the last five years.
The majority have never applied for registration. Inyangat said the Board did not have any pending applications.
Students can register as student members. On completing university, they can register as graduate members. After practicing for two years under a senior surveyor, they can apply to become professional associates of the ISU. Thereafter they become eligible to register with the Surveyors Registration Board.